Growth of golf in the Kingdom key to young Saudi star’s home tournament preparation

Saud Alsharif, 20, will line-up alongside golf’s biggest names when he tees-off in the second annual edition of Saudi Arabia’s only professional tournament. (Supplied)
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Updated 09 January 2020

Growth of golf in the Kingdom key to young Saudi star’s home tournament preparation

  • Saud aged only 19 failed to qualify for last year's weekend’s final two days
  • Saud remains undaunted by high-profile opposition, taking the opportunity in his stride

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s leading young golfer has revealed that the Kingdom’s increasing love of the game has been pivotal in his preparation for what he hopes will be a successful return to this month’s Saudi International.
Saud Alsharif, 20, will line up alongside golf’s biggest names when he tees-off in the second annual edition of Saudi Arabia’s only professional tournament, held at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club in King Abdullah Economic City from Jan. 30 through to Feb 2.
It is the second year in a row that Saud – who has been a member of the Saudi National Golf Team for five years – will compete in $3,500,000 prize-pool European Tour contest.
At last year’s inaugural event, Saud – then aged only 19 – failed to qualify for the weekend’s final two days after a disappointing second round.
However, he believes that he returns to the 2020 tournament a much more developed player – and attributes that to the support and backing of the growing golfing community in Saudi Arabia and the wider Middle East.
Saud said: “I played decent last year. It was pretty tough as playing in such a big event was very new to me. I was expecting a lot from myself, which I think actually weighed me down a bit. But this time I’m going to go in fresh, with the same high expectations, but trusting my game and I believe that will allow me to play well.
“The golf community in Saudi is very, very supportive. We get players at a young age into the game and try and make them love the game. We have very talented players coming through the ranks and we will keep on growing with the community and the support we get around it.
“Our National Team coaches too are very, very good guys. I’ve benefitted so much from just seeing them even in the last month alone, and I played really well in [recent competitions in] Morocco and Oman.
“We’re just trying to work on our mentality with coach Jamie McConnell, who’ll be my caddie at the Saudi International. There’s nothing to worry about in terms of my technique at the moment – it’s all about keeping my head in the game and that’s what I need to do.”
Saud will be rubbing shoulders with golfing icons including World No. 1 Brooks Koepka, defending Saudi International champion Dustin Johnson, current Open champion Shane Lowry, and US fan-favourite Phil Mickelson.
Spain’s Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson of Sweden, and four-times major winning South African Ernie Els are some of the other household names competing.
Saud remains undaunted by the opposition and is taking the opportunity in his stride – and even believes playing alongside the world’s best golfers can only improve his game.
“It is very, very good for us to have this caliber of players playing in the second Saudi International. It’s a real pleasure for me to be part of that field, and I would love to take the opportunity to play well. I think the tournament is going to keep helping Saudi golf and benefit the community around it,” he said.
“I always tell myself that if I play with better players, I am only going to benefit from that. That is the mentality every kid should have, especially if they want to take the game on more seriously. You should always seek to play with better players, no matter the age difference. Just try and be competitive.”
Saud – who hopes to become a professional – continued: “Golf should always be fun. If you’re not having fun, then you should reset and see what’s going wrong. It can be a difficult sport to learn at the start, so it’s important at that point to try and surround yourself with people that motivate you. I’ve loved golf from a young age and I just want to keep on getting better, which motivates me. For the young kids, the golf community here is always so supportive, so they should get out and play.”
Saud has just completed a month’s training with the Saudi Arabian Golf Federation-backed National Golf Team at the at the Claude Harman School in Dubai. He trained alongside amateur teammate Faisal Salhab, who will also compete in the SoftBank Investment Advisers-sponsored Saudi International.
Completing the contingent of Saudi players lining-up in the tournament will be the Kingdom’s first and only professional player, Othman Almulla.


Treble-chasing Bayern to hunt their 2nd title this season on Saturday

Updated 04 July 2020

Treble-chasing Bayern to hunt their 2nd title this season on Saturday

  • Due to COVID-19 pandemic, only 700 fans will be allowed into the stadium for the final game

BERLIN: Treble-chasing Bayern Munich are hunting their second title this season in Saturday’s German Cup final, a behind-closed-doors showdown that should have been an “absolute highlight” for success-starved Bayer Leverkusen fans.

Normally, the end-of-season showpiece final at Berlin’s iconic Olympic Stadium would be a festive affair in front of a packed house of 75,000 supporters.

However, due to the coronavirus pandemic just 700 will be allowed into the enormous stadium for this year’s final, including both teams, their backroom staff and officials.

Germany head coach Joachim Loew is one of the few invited guests.

After the final whistle, when German FA president Fritz Keller hands over the trophy, only the cheers of the winning team will echo around the cavernous stadium.

Former Bayern president Uli Hoeness finds it “a pity” that no fans will be present for the Berlin spectacle, while Leverkusen sports director Rudi Voeller feels the same before his club’s first cup final since 2009.

“For our fans, this would have been an absolute highlight after many years,” said former Germany midfielder Voeller.  “To play in this giant cauldron in front of just a few spectators is quite sad.”

Nevertheless, holders Bayern are determined to defend the cup, even if head coach Hansi Flick admits that without traveling support, their fans will be “very, very absent.”

Having lifted the Bundesliga trophy last Saturday for the eighth straight year, Bayern are targeting the next piece of silverware in their treble bid before tackling the Champions League in August.

“The boys are up for it and want to win the next title, we will do everything we can to achieve that,” said Bayern sports director Hasan Salihamidzic.

“We are very optimistic that we will come out as winners.”

 

Sane joins Bayern

Separately, Leroy Sane has targeted Champions League glory with Bayern Munich after joining the Bundesliga giants from Manchester City for a fee of around €50 million ($56 million) on Friday.

The Germany winger has returned to his home country on a 5-year contract after receiving the blessing of City coach Pep Guardiola.

“Bayern is a very big club and has big goals — these goals suit me as well,” said the 24-year-old Sane.

“I want to win as many titles as possible with Bayern, and the Champions League is at the top.”

The Bundesliga champions did not give the transfer fee, but Sky Sports and the BBC have reported that Bayern and City agreed a fee of €60.8 million. 

 

 

German daily Bild claim the fee is around
€50 million.

BERLIN: